MANILA, Philippines – The police officer who told media that 10,000 people were feared dead in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) has been relieved.
On Thursday, November 14 – 6 days after Yolanda ravaged central Philippines – Chief Supt Elmer Soria, regional commander of Eastern Visayas, was relieved from his post.
Two days after the storm, on Sunday, Soria told reporters in Tacloban City, Leyte – the hardest hit locality – that the number of deaths was pegged at 10,000.
The figure however, was based on the estimates of the Leyte governor, a party mate of the President.
"We had a meeting last night (Saturday, November 9) with the governor and based on the government's estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead)," Soria was quoted as saying.
Other reports quoting Tacloban administrator Tecson Lim also gave the same number. Lim reportedly said the death toll in the city alone “could go up to 10,000.”
According to Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Reuben Theodore Sindac, Soria was relieved due to stress.
"Well, for one thing he's been through a lot of what you may call acute stress reaction, and as such, it was deemed by higher headquarters that he might need to go through some stress debriefing," he told Rappler.
Sindac also said the PNP felt the need to appoint "a new Regional Director not affected by recent events."
"Hence the designation of PCSupt Henry Losañes, the former director of the PNP Maritime Group, as his replacement, was considered," he said.
A couple of days earlier, President Benigno Aquino III also told CNN in an interview, "emotional trauma" must have been the reason for the inaccurate estimate.
"10,000 I think is too much. And perhaps that was… brought about by being at the center of destruction… there's emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate," Aquino told CNN's Christiane Amanpour Tuesday, November 12.
The initial death toll estimate of 10,000 caused widespread panic and concern, and triggered an influx of aid. The national government has since been criticized for lack of preparation and disorganized relief efforts.
While the current death toll is still far lower, the government's figures are disputed by Red Cross' own numbers.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said at least 3,853 people are injured and 77 remain missing, but Red Cross pegs the missing at 20,000.
On Friday, November 8, the world's strongest typhoon battered the Philippines' Visayas region leaving massive damage.